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Itś Not Too Late To Change The Story

If there is a Better Way… Do That

Home Is Where Your Story Begins

Our stories begin when we are very young.  Regardless of what happens to us and how difficult moments leave us wondering how things could go in a different direction, it is important to remember that it is okay to change the story. As we often remind students, great stories have plot twists. It is okay if our story as an educator twists and turns. Education is a humbling profession.  When we find a better way, it is important to embrace an opportunity to take a new path and do things differently. Every Moment is an Opportunity. At any given moment, we can change the direction we are going. Just because we have always done something a certain way does not mean that it is essential to keep moving in that same direction. We teach students to change their stories and do what serves them best.  And, as educators, we need to do as we advise students to do. 

Changing the Way Expectations Are Phrased

Last spring, I read the chapter, ¨Stop Accepting Low-Quality Student Work¨ written by Katie McNamara in the book 100 Things Teachers Should Stop Doing. McNamaraś chapter changed my thinking as an educator. Before reading her perspective of why it is important not to take incomplete or poorly done work, I believed it was better to take what I could get and allow students an opportunity to get a few points rather than zero.  

The book 100 Things Teachers Should Stop Doing, written by over a hundred authors and compiled by Rick Jetter, is a book I reference often. This book took my story as an educator in several new directions.  While reading many of the chapters, I realized better ways of organizing methods and procedures as a teacher. Educators are at their best when they are constantly learning, growing, and improving. I cannot wait for the second edition for school leaders, which will be available in 2022.  

Raise the Expectation and Value

McNamara says ¨When teachers stop accepting incomplete work, the expectation rises.  Why send the message that your assignment does not matter? Send work back, just like you would a steak not cooked the way you ordered it. 

Halfway can be tough for students to understand at first, but eventually, they will learn that there is an expectation and a belief that they are capable of more than mediocrity. When educators set the bar that completion is necessary, students will deliver. 

Changing the Story of What We Expect Prepares Students for the Future

The future demands that we do exceptional and complete jobs in chosen professions.  We do not accept partial work from a surgeon or car mechanic. We are not okay accepting a sloppy room from a hotel or a rental car that is not fully cleaned. 

To prepare students for a future where their best is not only asked for but expected, I had to change my story of how late work looked in my classroom. I have always been a fan of rewarding work that is turned in on time. However, while students were primarily focused on getting work submitted to meet a random deadline, I noticed that I often received incomplete assignments, crummy content and even sometimes work from students who would cheat or plagiarize to simply meet a deadline so that they would not get half credit on an assignment.  

Changing the Story Helped Me Accomplish More Goals

There is value in completing work on time, and often there is a strong correlation between being able to stay current with work and doing well in a class. However, if I was only going to accept complete work, and continue returning assignments to students like a steak that was not cooked to my liking, I had to be willing to accept assignments after an initial due date. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the end of the term was the official due date rather than several different ones throughout the grading term.

 Five weeks into a new year, making an adjustment to how I score work serves not only my students but makes my job as an educator a lot more efficient. I love grading essays knowing that I am giving feedback based on the quality, not the date it was turned in. I have found that the frequency in which I am able to deliver feedback is also much greater when I eliminate the stress in figuring out which day the work was turned in, and consequently how many points should be taken off the final grade. By taking an arbitrary deadline out of the process, students are much more focused on improving their work. 

100 Percent of The Responsibility and Ability Falls is With the Student

As a teacher, I have spent too much time shouldering the responsibility for a students´ grade.  I cannot say that I blame a student who is not excited to write an essay where the highest value of points can be 50 or 70 percent. Students also know that they have one hundred percent of the power to turn their grades around.  

Have Courage to Be Inspired

The more educators read, listen to podcasts and participate in collaborative experiences, the more opportunities to change directions and make changes to our story. When I look back on the last 19 years as an educator, I am proud that while my goals and mindset as an educator have not wavered, the methods used to achieve those goals have improved a lot over the years. As George Eliot says, ¨It is never too late to be who you might have been¨  If there is a better way, do that. 

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